The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
Guiding questions for student reading:
1. What does the novel suggest about the nature of influence?
2. What is the relationship between art and morality, art and the artist, the work of art and the spectator?
3. How can life itself be considered a work of art?
4. What is "hedonism"? What role does it play in the novel?
5. How does the preface fit into the work as a whole?
6. Who or what are Wilde’s apparent targets for social criticism? What point is he making about them?
7. What are the literal and symbolic meanings of the final scene?
Why summer reading?
Students, please use these questions as a guide for your annotation of the summer reading.
Your teachers encourage the practice of annotation in all your assigned reading at Stevenson, as a way to prepare for classroom activities and assessments and to reinforce the habit of active reading.
Based in Victorian England, the main character Dorian stays forever young, keeping the secret of his youth a mystery that is discovered by the end of the novel. With Lord Henry Wotton’s aphorisms on the truths or falsehoods of Victorian life, and with Basil Hallward’s ideas about the role of art, The Picture of Dorian Gray poses provocative questions about art and morality that connect to later exploration of definition as a rhetorical mode and should appeal to skilled readers who enjoy wrestling with complex ideas. The Picture of Dorian Gray can be read purely for enjoyment while also containing literary and rhetorical elements that enrich the reading experience and provide an appropriate challenge for honors students; thus, it sets the tone for moving from literal to symbolic and concrete to abstract.
The Picture of Dorian Gray transitions students from Sophomore year on two levels: 1) the content from prior Victorian novels (A Tale of Two Cities and Jane Eyre) provides students appropriate context to understand aspects of Victorian England; 2) The Picture of Dorian Gray offers a bridge into a course devoted largely to the study of rhetoric and nonfiction.
What is the purpose of the summer reading assignment?
1. Identify and evaluate character development and the relationship among characters.
2. Recognize literature as a means of social criticism.
What do we expect students to learn from the summer reading?
1. Explain what the novel suggests about the nature of influence.
2. Determine the relationship between art and morality, art and the artist, the work of art and the spectator.
3. Explore how life can be considered a work of art.
4. Define hedonism and evaluate the role it plays in the novel.
5. Analyze how the Preface relates to the work as a whole.
6. Determine Wilde’s apparent targets for social criticism, and draw conclusions about who or what is the antagonist.
7. Explicate the literal and symbolic meanings of the final scene.
What can you expect in your English class at the beginning of the school year?
Over a 4-5 day period, students will engage in group work and full class discussions designed to explore the novel and ancillary materials in order to meet the learning targets.
How will what you've learned be assessed?
Prior to instruction, students will be given a test (short essay/extended response) within the first two days of school designed to assess their reading habits and comprehension, as well as their overall writing skills. During instruction, students will demonstrate their emerging understanding through performance assessments such as participating in group and full class discussions. After instruction of the novel, students will respond to an out-of-class essay prompt and take a multiple choice quiz on a related piece to introduce the kind of critical reading necessary for the AP exam in the spring; these assessments align with the goals of analysis and/or argumentation.
What feedback will you receive from your teacher?
Students will receive immediate feedback on their emerging ideas through class discussion. Students will receive feedback on their in-class essays in the form of teacher comments (for specific ideas related to their interpretation of the novel) and a writing rubric (for the writing skills). Students will receive a score on their multiple choice quiz, an interpretation of the score in terms of AP scoring standards, and a thorough debriefing of both the reading passage and the quiz itself.